The most common type of snail you’ll likely come across in your garden is the garden snail. But, what do garden snails eat and can they cause a lot of damage to your yard? If you’re planning to grow some delicious vegetables in your garden, do you need to worry about whether garden snails may eat the fruits of your labor?

Garden snails eat all sorts of plants, including vegetables and leaves. They can also consume flowers and dead animal matter, such as other snails and worms. However, garden snails tend to favor some plants and vegetables over others, including tomatoes and marigolds. But young plants and seedlings are their favorite choice.

While we know some plants that garden snails can eat, they also have other preferences and can eat different types of less common materials. To help you understand what can attract garden snails and how to keep them away, let’s look into these fascinating creatures in detail.

Garden snail mouths

Introduction to Garden Snails

Garden snails are present in several parts of the world, and in some countries, people often cook and eat them (for example, as escargot in France). However, we know garden snails primarily for their pest-like behavior in consuming the delicate plants in our gardens.

As adults, their shells are around 40 millimeters in diameter, and they are typically brown with a few yellow streaks here and there. While you can spot them all over the garden, there are a few areas where you may find more snails. For example, garden snails tend to frequent compost heaps, flower borders, and herb gardens, and they love damp and dark places.

There are also certain months in which they are more active. Many gardeners see them at night in March, April, May, June, July, October, and November. However, it is not uncommon to see them in the other months.

Roman Garden Snail (Helix pomatia)
Roman Garden Snail (Helix pomatia)

What Do Garden Snails Eat? (In Detail)

There are plenty of different things that garden snails can eat. However, what they eat most can depend on numerous factors, including their growth state, habitat, and the season. As a general rule of thumb, you may want to get into the mindset that snails can eat almost everything you want to grow.

They can also eat fruits such as kiwis, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, and even watermelons. In seeking calcium, you can also find them on fences or buildings, attacking walls and paint. Eggshells are also quite popular as a good source of calcium for young garden snails. In addition, garden snails can eat rotting leaves, tree bark, and other dead plant matter.

They will also feed on foliage and fruits of some trees like citrus, which they like, but if their population is high, it can devastate fruits.

They will also eat some mushrooms and various vegetables from your garden.

Garden snail on cabbage
Garden snail on cabbage

What Vegetables Do Garden Snails Eat (Protect These)

Garden snails seem to like eating certain vegetables, including lettuce, peas, and broccoli. A particular type of vegetable they appear to enjoy eating the most are tomatoes and cucumbers, so if you plan to grow these, remember that you may find more garden snails near your garden beds. 

That applies especially to young plants, which leaves and seedlings are a true delicacy for them.

Garden snails most often attack vegetables whose leaves and fruits are lower to the ground, but you must have close attention to vegetable seedlings like:

Garden snail on lettuce
Garden snail on lettuce

What Will Garden Snails Not Eat?

Garden snails will not eat any salty foods. Salt does not positively affect snails, as it can result in moisture loss and be fatal if garden snails consume enough salt. They will also not attempt to consume rice, crackers, bread, or other similar foods.

Herbs are plants that garden snails don’t like, whether because of their fragrance, shape, flavor, or texture.

Some of the herbs that garden snails can’t stand because of their scent and will help to deter them from your garden beds are:

  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Ferns
  • Catmint
  • Oregano

There are few vegetables not only to be safe against slugs and snails but will also deter them from other vegetables like: 

Garden snails on strawberries
Garden snails on strawberries

Preventing Garden Snails From Eating Through Your Plants

Since garden snails are pretty standard, you can expect them to cause some harm to your plants regardless of any prevention method you use to deter them.

In most cases, few snails won’t cause you any significant damage, but large populations and slugs can devastate crops. However, there are many natural ways to reduce the impact, and control them in your beautiful garden. 

Garlic Mixture

One prevention method involves growing and spreading garlic. While snails like to eat plants and vegetables, garlic, in particular, can act as an excellent repellent to snails. If you create a mixture made by combining water and garlic, the pungent odor that it gives out will serve as a deterrent.

To spread the mixture, you can add it to a spray bottle and spray the solution in parts of your garden, concentrating more on areas where you usually find garden snails.

It is a natural and very effective method of deterring slug and snails, and although your garden might smell like garlic depending on how much you use, it still works well.

Banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis)
Banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis)

Coffee Powder

A less well-known deterrent for garden snails is coffee powder. In its natural form, coffee powder has a powerful smell that snails do not appear to enjoy. Depending on the type of coffee you choose, it can be expensive in the long term. However, there are several cheap options for coffee that you can continue to use against snails.

To spread the powder, use your hands to sprinkle it in places where you can typically spot them and around the plants. An additional benefit is that it may also repel other pests and bugs that can damage your vegetables. 

Beer Trap

While it isn’t common knowledge amongst the general populace, many gardeners know that yeast in beer can attract both slugs and snails. If you want to use this method to reduce the garden snail population in your backyard, take a small bowl and fill it will any beer.

Leave the bowl outside, close to your vegetables and young plants. After some time, the snails will head towards the container and eventually drown in the liquid after they slide into the bowl. 

Picking by Hand

Hand-picking is one of the most effective methods for snail control. It is an excellent method for small gardens, but you must pick them up regularly to be effective.

As they love wet and dark places, you can find them under planks, buckets, cardboard, and other materials around your garden. They are most active after the rain, which is the best time to remove them from your vegetables.

Brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum)
Brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum)

Conclusion

Overall, the large garden snails population can cause plenty of issues by eating through your nutritious vegetables. They are most dangerous to young plants and seedlings, which garden snails eat like crazy. They do eat matured and dead plants as well and are essential members of the garden ecosystem.

However, there are several methods to help reduce the impact of garden snails, so next time you’re out gardening, consider using some of the ways above to keep them at bay.